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Monday, January 2, 2023
Maui: Tasha Kama selected as interim council chair
By News Release @ 5:15 PM :: 5859 Views :: Maui County


from Our Correspondent, Jan 2, 2023

And just like that Tasha Kama was unanimously selected as the new interim council chair pending the outcome of the legal challenge to Alice Lee's election now before the Hawaii Supreme Court.

To say I didn't see it coming would be an understatement.

Rather than the expected protracted wrangling, it was all over in what seemed like the twinkling of an eye. The chair had not assumed the dais for more than a few minutes when there was an objection from Rawlins-Fernandez to Kama's decision to "think over" committee assignments for a week.

While most of the council seemed to want to finish the organizing work all in one sitting - as in immediately today, when it was put to a vote the outcome between now and later was a 4-4 split with Kama, as chair, casting the tie breaker, which gave her a week of "thinking" time.

Interestingly enough, R-F (who supported Kama's nomination), was the one to raise (and lose) the objection to the delay.

What will happen next is anyone's guess. What the committees will be, who will head them, how long they will endure, how they will be rejiggered in the next 90 days, and what rules will apply? It all remains a bit fuzzy.

There are lots of parts that seem to be moving just below the surface of which the biggest one seems to be will R-F retain her former budget position, for which she is lobbying hard? (Under the old Alice Lee scheme of things R-F chaired no committee, much less the powerful budget post.)

My main takeaway is entering the Kama era (cue the eerie music) reminds me of the opening chords of the Twilight Zone.

In the meantime, while the new chair mulls over the interim committee assignments, word is sure to filter out to the masses on the salaries being approved for council services lead staff. These include figures in the mid $150,000s + with guaranteed raises upping the pay to the $160,000+ and above in two steps.

More blow-back on those salaries and the automatic increases is certain to be discussed both in chambers and over the tailgates of pick up trucks around the islands. One thing for certain, members of the public like Leonard Junya Nakoa, who testified remotely in colorful language,  thought it was a rip-off.

At the council, the only dissenting voice on the salaries and the steep projected increases was council member Sugimura who was outvoted 7-1 on the first round and 6-2 on the second (where she was joined by council member Cook). 

CB: Inauguration Day In Maui County: ‘Ready To Go To Work’      

CB: Maui’s New County Council Struggles To Get Moving Amid 4-4 Split

MN: Court case hangs over shorthanded council as term begins

MN: Bissen sworn in as Maui County mayor 

MN: Five more officials appointed to Bissen’s administration 

KITV: Ninth Maui County Council seat still up in the air, awaiting supreme court decision

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From Our Correspondent, Dec 30, 2022

The latest wrinkle in the unending drama of the Maui County Council is that the Hawaii Supreme Court did not rule (yet) on the challenge to the election of member Alice Lee. That means that Lee will not be seated on Monday, Jan 2, when the council meets to organize. Thus there will only be 8 members and they will be evenly split pro-anti development in their views.

Who will they pick to chair? By charter the new mayor chairs the proceedings until they can agree.

Since most observers think that Lee was likely to be chosen as the chair of the incoming council, not being in the mix, if only temporarily, may throw a monkey wrench into the plans of the various factions and their conflicting early schemes and ambitions.

Watch it all live beginning at 2 pm in chambers or on Akaku Ch. 53.

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New staffing, new agenda for Monday’s Maui County Council organizational meeting

Press Release by: Alice L. Lee, Chair, Maui County Council, December 27, 2022

WAILUKU, Hawaii—The council is set to appoint new staff, as seen on a new agenda for Monday’s organizational meeting of the 2023-2025 Maui County Council, Chair Alice L. Lee announced today.

Several county staffers have agreed to changed roles, as proposed in the revised slate of resolutions posted on the agenda, Lee said. The organizational meeting is where the council elects its officers, sets its committees and appoints its staff for the upcoming two-year term, which runs through Jan. 2, 2025.

“I’m pleased to have experienced staff members who want to continue their careers in public service to Maui County residents in new roles,” Lee said. “When the opportunity to secure these appointments presented itself today, I thought it was worthwhile to post new staffing resolutions on a new meeting agenda.”

An agenda for the organizational meeting that had been posted Friday has been canceled.

The organizational meeting agenda, including instructions on how to testify, is available at Councilmembers will have a ceremonial inauguration ceremony hosted by Kathy Collins, featuring a keynote address by former Judge Rhonda Loo, on Monday at 10 a.m.

Both the morning ceremony and the afternoon organizational meeting will be in the Council Chamber and shown live on Channel 53 by Akakū Maui Community Media and on the council’s Facebook page. For more information, please contact the Office of Council Services at (808) 270-7838.

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Takayesu, Arce, Minn and Tsuhako are the latest appointments to Bissen’s cabinet

News Release from Bissen Transition, December 27, 2022

Maui Mayor-elect Richard Bissen announced a new round of appointments to his cabinet including:

  • Victoria Hamilton Takayesu as Corporation Counsel;
  • Rogerene “Kali” Arce as Director of Department of Agriculture;
  • Mālama Minn as Director of Parks and Recreation; and
  • Lori Tsuhako as Director of Housing and Human Concerns.

For over 20 years, Takayesu has worked at the State of Hawai`i’s Department of the Attorney General where she has led the Child Support Enforcement Branch on Maui. She previously had a private law practice and served in the County of Maui as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney before becoming a Deputy Corporation Counsel for the County. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the City College of the City University of New York and received her Juris Doctor from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, New York. Takayesu will lead a department responsible for the legal oversight of county operations. The department supports County government by providing legal advice and representation that promotes public interest and promotes the countywide strategic priorities.

Arce was appointed in July of 2022 as the director of the newly created County of Maui Department of Agriculture. She is a Molokaʻi resident who is a former executive deputy director for the Molokaʻi Land Trust and previously served as the acting chief and biological technician for Kalaupapa National Historical Park’s Natural Resources Department. Arce developed the successful Molokaʻi Hawaiian Homes New Farmer Program while on staff with the University of Hawai`i CTAHR and held leadership roles at Monsanto Molokaʻi where she garnered accolades for her efforts to develop the first Hawaiʻi business to be conservation certified. She is a Kamehameha Schools graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree from University of Hawaiʻi Hilo and earned a Master of Science degree from Washington State University. She has worked for 30 years in the agriculture and conservation restoration industries.

Hāna native Minn has an extensive background in renewable energy projects and policy development. While at the State of Hawaiʻi’s Department of Land and Natural Resources she was involved in leading shoreline certifications for a division and addressing encroachment complaints received by the public and department staff. Her collaborative efforts as part of the State’s Energy Office helped to support bringing more renewable energy to Hawaiʻi. Minn received her Juris Doctor from the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi.

Tsuhako, who has served as director of the County of Maui’s Department of Housing and Human Concerns under two different County administrations has 36 years of experience as a professional social worker in the fields of child welfare, criminal justice, and substance abuse education and prevention, and homelessness. She was previously an administrator of the State of Hawaiʻi’s Homeless Programs Office and worked in the field of Aging. With decades of experience in implementing evidence-based and data-driven programs including efforts to improve the social safety net of communities, she will lead a department with services and programs that focus on early childhood, homelessness, immigrant services, seniors, housing, as well as oversight of the County’s Volunteer Center. Tsuhako is a licensed social worker in the State of Hawaiʻi and received certification from the national Academy of Certified Social Workers. She earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

“As we prepare to take the helm of the County, we must also prepare to tackle many critical issues that have been at the forefront for Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi. My team will have the benefit of their individual professional experiences, a fresh opportunity in a new administration, and clear leadership that I intend to give to my cabinet members. Public service isn’t for everyone, and I appreciate and applaud those that have a desire to serve and make a difference. I look forward to the contributions that Tori, Kali, Mālama and Lori will make as we move forward,” said Mayor-elect Bissen.

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Mayor-elect Bissen announces additional appointments to his cabinet

News Release from Bissen Transition, Dec 14, 2022 

Mayor-elect Richard Bissen has announced additional appointments to his cabinet, including:

  • Leo Caires as Chief of Staff
  • Mahina Martin as Chief of Communications and Public Affairs
  • Gerry Dameron as Chief Innovation Officer

Leo Caires, in his role as Chief of Staff, will oversee executive support staff and divisions within the Office of the Mayor.

He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Chadron State College and a doctorate in education, leadership and innovation from St. Thomas University where his doctorate dissertation was on the financial literacy of Native Hawaiians.

A former Division 1a linebacker football player and rodeo cowboy who garnered state championship wins and national qualifier in steer wrestling and bull riding while a student at Maui High School, he is an accomplished commercial finance professional and business owner who has federal government professional experience.

Since 2020, together with his family, Caires continues to operate the Kaupakalua Wine and Liquor Company that was first incorporated in 1905.

Mahina Martin will lead the Office of Communications and Public Affairs providing support with media relations, public information, and community engagement.

As a director of government and community affairs for Hawaiian Electric she led the utility’s community outreach, corporate giving, and engagement strategy for Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi for over nine years and will bring more than 30 years of public affairs experience to her role in the administration.

She previously served as communications director during the Tavares administration, is a former Department of Hawaiian Home Lands commissioner, and will be an incoming 2023 USA Board member of the International Association of Public Participation, an international organization advancing the practice of public participation with chapters in 26 countries.

As Chief Innovation Officer, Gerry Dameron will help to address Mayor-elect Bissen’s priorities of sustainability, affordable housing, infrastructure improvement, environmental protection, job creation and green economic development.

With more than 25 years of success in organizational leadership, training and technological innovation in the business and the municipal sectors, his role will focus on bringing together different departments and County teams to utilize proven leading-edge technologies, dynamic systems, and best practices.

For the past 11 years he has served as the executive director of Go Green Culture Foundation, a nonprofit charitable foundation.

Mayor-elect Bissen said he’s excited about the selections of experienced and accomplished individuals.

“It’s important that we find ways to combine and leverage the positive strengths of government and community to have the generational impact I’m committed to bringing to Maui County and their roles will underscore that effort.”

While the previously announced appointment of Kekuhaupio “Keku” Akana as Managing Director will require council approval, these three positions on Bissen’s staff do not have that requirement.

Mayor-elect Bissen said he looks forward to announcing more members of his team in the weeks to come with additional appointments of department directors and their deputies.

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News Release from Bissen Transition, Dec 12, 2022

[Wailuku, Monday December 12, 2022] Mayor-Elect Richard Bissen announces the first appointment to his cabinet: Kekuhaupio ‘Keku’ Akana as Managing Director.

Akana is a 25-year Maui County career Police Officer who retired as deputy chief in 2006. He will head the Department of Management and oversee County departments. In 2013, Keku and other dedicated individuals collaboratively founded a community care van called A Cup of Cold Water. The episcopal ministry is operated by volunteers providing water, food, hygiene and first aid supplies to the homeless, poor and needy.

A 1975 Baldwin High School graduate, Akana’s past includes participating in the Queen Emma athletic club for youth weight lifting outreach as well as the Wailuku weight lifting club. He received his Bachelors of Arts in social sciences from University of Hawaii and was a two year letterman for the Rainbow Warriors football team from ‘79-’80. Keku is also the former State of Hawaii record holder in weightlifting, the super heavyweight class. In 1988, he qualified in the USA Olympic trials Weightlifting as a finalist in the super heavyweight class. In addition, Akana received an Associate’s degree in the administration of justice from University of Hawaii Maui College and was a FBI national academy graduate.

Akana states: “I’m humbled and honored to join Mayor-elect Bissen’s administration and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve our county. His leadership focuses on the well being of our communities with an eye on the future of our grandchildren. I’m committed to the same servantship leadership that Mayor-Elect Bissen holds. We’re facing many critical issues needing solutions and I’m looking forward to working with department directors, their deputies and their teams to bring forward the best we can all do.”

Bissen adds: “We have important work ahead. While traveling throughout all Maui County’s communities I heard a desire for steady, strong leadership. By listening to the diverse voices of our residents, we identified many of the root issues that are barriers for prosperity of our kamaʻāina. I’m excited to have Keku join the Bissen administration. The depth of his experiences and his history of dedication to Maui Nui offers a strong foundation. He is motivated to do his best, does it with aloha and we are ready to get to work. I look forward to announcing more thoughtful decisions to complete our team in the weeks to come with additional appointments.”

This is an official document released by the Mayor-Elect, Richard Bissen Transition Team

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News Release from Bissen Transition, Dec 8, 2022

[Wailuku, Thursday, December 8, 2022] Mayor Elect, Richard Bissen, Maui County Mayor Elect Richard Bissen is seeking individuals who wish to serve their community in the position of County Department Directors and County Deputy Directors. They are:

Planning,  Parks and Recreation, Housing and Human Concerns, Finance, Environmental Management, Agriculture, Water Supply, Public Works, Budget, and Transportation.

Some of these positions do require a degree and/or five years of experience in an administrative capacity. Please see the Maui County Charter for more specific qualifications for each department.

Resumes and a brief description of what department you are applying for may be sent to The resumes and interviews will be examined by the Executive Review Committee. The committee will accept resumes until which time the Mayor Elect finds a suitable candidate.

For any questions, please email Charlene Schulenburg at

Charlene Schulenburg



CB: Bissen Picks Retired Deputy Police Chief To Run Maui Government


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